James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Archives August 2011

Serendipity in the Archives

As I was looking for something of interest this month, I happened upon a letter written by Harvey Milk to his friend Susan Davis in September 1960. At that time Hurricane Donna ravaged the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. from Florida to Maine. Harvey writes about the expected arrival of the hurricane. Since Hurricane Irene has been all over the news lately, Harvey's letter provides an unexpected connection to events 51 years ago.

Of course, not every moment is newsworthy. For each letter, diary entry, or photograph that evokes a historical moment, there are many more that touch on the daily happenings and occasional milestones in ordinary people's lives. These can be equally interesting to peruse, as they provide glimpses into bygone eras and places and into the concerns and hopes of the people living then.

With that in mind, I selected another letter from the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch collection (GLC 19). In this letter, Harvey congratulates Sue on her recent wedding to George Alch and muses on marriage, his home life with Joe Campbell and the wonderful city of San Francisco (where Sue and George got married). These letters provide insight into Harvey's personal life, his thoughts and his sense of humor.

The two letters highlighted in this post are merely the tip of the iceberg. The library's archival collections are full of such captured moments--from the mundane, ordinary and quite personal to the life-altering, history-making and public. If you are interested in looking at original historical materials, such as the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch letters, please visit the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

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